Bird Flu 101: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention

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Bird Flu 101: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention

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As published on The Poultry Site, over 38,000 chickens were culled in July 2020 after the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry had detected the presence of H5N6 in an egg-producing farm in the province of Pampanga. The Bird Flu remains to be a big threat to wild and domesticated birds. 

How do you keep your gamefowls safe from this pressing threat? Understanding the causes and employing the following steps and suggestions for bird flu prevention can help.

Where Bird Flu Comes From

Bird Flu or Avian Influenza refers to the disease caused by one of four types of avian influenza viruses. Avian influenza type A viruses naturally occur in wild aquatic birds such as wild ducks, geese, swans, gulls and shorebirds. While infection in these aquatic birds does not affect or cause them to get sick, avian influenza type A viruses are very contagious among other bird species and may even be lethal for domesticated chickens and ducks. Transmission can be through saliva, nasal secretions and feces. 

The viruses under avian influenza A are classified into the following categories:  

  • Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) which may not be detectable and apart from a few symptoms such as ruffled feathers or a drop in egg production. 
  • Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses can cause severe disease, affecting multiple internal organs with a mortality of 90% to 100%

It is important to note that both HPAI and LPAI viruses can spread fast in poultry flocks.

The Symptoms to Watch Out For

Identifying fowls infected with bird flu can be tricky. Healthy chickens or those infected with LPAI may or may not show signs and may spread the virus without you knowing it. Meanwhile those infected HPAI will show signs, but you can expect them to be gone within days or hours.

Still, it’s best to regularly check on your chickens for any unusual appearance or behavior. The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Reduced roaming and activity
  • Drop in egg production
  • Excessive flock huddling and ruffled feathers
  • Coughing
  • Low appetite
  • Wet eyes
  • Blueness of the head area
  • Fluid in the comb and wattles
  • Legs bleeding underneath the skin
  • Sudden death

If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure to get in contact with your local vet. 

How to Prevent Bird Flu

The best way to prevent bird flu infection is to avoid exposure to possible sources. That means making sure that your game fowls and poultry are safe and away from birds that may be carriers with the condition. Check out these measures that you can take to prevent the spread of bird flu.

  1. Make Sure Your Coop is Secured
    Build fences and devices that would keep wild birds out. Consider adding or fortifying a roof over the chicken pen to prevent wild bird droppings from falling in.
  2. Keep the Coop Clean
    Keeping a tidy chicken coop helps in preventing and managing the spread of bird flu. Don’t forget about these details:
    • Regularly empty and clean feeders
    • Clean and disinfect any equipment that you use with your fowls
    • Do a weekly clean up and disinfection of the coop
  3. Limit Visits and Visitors
    Especially when there’s news of bird flu outbreak nearby, practice limiting visits to other flocks, as well as limiting other people from visiting your coop.

When a bird flu outbreak is declared, depopulatin (or culling) is normally carried out. Neighboring flocks are also observed to prevent the spread of the disease.

Read more features on pig and poultry care, and farm tips from UNAHCO.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/index.htm

https://www.thehappychickencoop.com/bird-flu-and-backyard-chickens/

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